Saturday, March 17, 2012

Cats & Books

Cats & Books
By Leena Calso Chua

The picture shows cats playing atop some books -- cats on books, literally speaking.

But that's not what I mean. This is about cats and the books they like. It's common knowledge among dynamic pet breeders that cats adore books and start to read as early as two weeks old, when they open their eyes. In their kittengarten stage they start with kiddie fare like Dr. Seuss's A Cat in the Hat, then move on to Saki's Tobermory, though not one of them likes what happened to the only member of their species that had gained the ability to talk.

It is not unusual to find some of the more sedate kitties preferring T.S. Eliot's juvenile Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, from which the smash Broadway play, Cats, was adapted. I have even seen kittens, in private moments, humming the theme song, Memory. One of them even extended his reading to Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. This poem has nothing to do with anything feline, but cats do like the somber sway and tenor of the poem.
What student of Literature doesn't know Gray's Elegy? But cats sneer at the student's ignorance of Gray's lament over his beloved Selina, Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes. Anyway, that's ok, since kittens realize early in life that the luminosity of the human mind is uncannily equivalent to that of a dim bulb.

Kittens have a deep fondness for specialized magazines about them: Cat's World, Kittens, Cat Fancy, and occasional articles in National Geographic about their favorite country in this planet, Egypt. They venerate their ancient ancestors who lived in luxurious palaces with pharaohs who really knew how to give cats their rightful place -- way up in the pantheon of nobility.

Mau's baby Persians may root for Batman, but they purr at the Dark Knight's romantic link with their green-eyed heroine, Selina Kyle, a.k.a. Catwoman. They also lapped up Vonnegut's Cat Cradle, but were miffed after they found out the novel is not even remotely about cats at all. Rightly, they settled for Golden Age copies of Felix the Cat.
One of Hemingway's early short story, Cat in the Rain, is a kitty favorite. Another oldie-but-goldie is Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's, where, in the film version, an orange tabby plays a crucial role (also in the rain) to bring the angst-ridden Audrey Hepburn to the arms of budding-writer-cat-sympathizer George Peppard. Yes, cats swing to the slow tune of Moonriver.
Would you believe songs by Cat Stevens are still extremely disliked by erudite and musical cats? They hiss at Morning Has Broken, yowls greet Wild World, tuffs of fur are tossed against the composer of Father and Son. Kittens and old cats have on record the sin of the erstwhile-adored Cat Stevens, talented singer turned idiotic Islamic convert, who with great cacophony supported the crazy Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa against prolific writer Salman Rushdie. For writing The Satanic Verses, Rushdie had been sentenced to death by whatever means in the hands of any Muslim who succeeds in making Rushdie shake hands with his creator, asap.
Of course, they dote on the late James Herriot series of books about his growth and fame as a veterinarian who loved, saved and took care of big farm animals and the smaller pets like dogs and -- ahem! -- cute kittens. The title of four of Herriot's books were the first stanza of Hymns For Little Children, an 1848 poem by Cecil F. Alexander: All Things Bright and Beautiful, All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Wise and Wonderful, The Lord God Made Them All.
Cats read for leisure, not for career: they'd rather take catnaps, sniff catnips, and stay cute all their life. After all, that's what pets are for.

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